The coronavirus pandemic has resulted in cancellations of sporting events across the country, including the Big 33, an all-star football game between high school players from Pennsylvania and Maryland.
But while the 2020 game, which had been scheduled for May 25 at Central Dauphin’s Landis Field at Speed Ebersole Stadium in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, was called off to protect all involved, the participants were still honored.
That took place Thursday on a live YouTube stream hosted by the Pennsylvania Scholastic Football Coaches Association.
Host Jimmy Jones, a Harrisburg native and former USC quarterback, and PSFCA executive director Gary Cathell announced the name of each player, cheerleader and buddy.
“Being part of the Big 33 as a player — how important it was to you,” Cathell said to Jones. “We hope that we can make the same kind of important feeling to those players who didn’t have the opportunity to play. I’d also like to say on the behalf of the PSFCA, I’d like to congratulate all of those athletes selected to participate in the 63rd Football Classic.”
Team Pennsylvania’s Noah Palm, of Cocalico High in Denver in Southeastern Pennsylvania, and Jacob McIlvaine of Catoctin in Frederick County won the United States Marine Corpsand Big 33 “Fan Favorite” Award. Their schools will be awarded a donation by the Marines.
Most years host families lodge players at their homes during the week of the game in Central Pennsylvania. For a number of players and host families alike, a bond is formed that can last a lifetime.
One such family is that of Summer Farmen, whose son was involved in the buddy program with young fans with special needs.
“I have to say that I absolutely love all of it,” Farmen said. “I cannot pinpoint one specific aspect. We started out years ago — just involved in the buddy program — we have a son with special needs, heard about Big 33 and we thought it would be a great opportunity for him.”
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Braasch, a former Penn State cheerleading coach, choreographs the halftime show, and her excitement about doing so is evident. “The only way that you can get rid of me is if you fire me because I love this program and will do it as long as I can,” said
Carter Powell, a member of the wrestling team at Lower Dauphin in Hummelstown in Central Pennsylvania, also was introduced on the video. . Powell, who has cerebral palsy, is part of the buddy program. He was paired with Ravens starting center Matt Skura during the 2011 game and is close with Mike Viti, a 2016 Team Pennsylvania player and four-year letterman at Western Illinois.
“The thing that I like most is the bonds that I have made between buddies and the players and becoming lifelong friends and holding a special memory,” Powell said while wearing a Ravens hat. “I have met Mike Viti and we stay in touch all of the time, and then my good friend Kennedy Walters has also been a huge part of my life since the Big 33.”
Baltimore-area players on Maryland’s team include Mount Saint Joseph’s Marlowe Wax Jr., Tyler Leavy and Aamir Hall; Towson’s Karon Ball; Lake Clifton’s Michael Gray; St. Frances’ Tyler Thomas, Bryce Johnson-Maith and Jonathan Wallace; Marriotts Ridge’s Nick Harris; Mervo’s Kamar Missouri; Franklin’s Montre Harris; Milford Mill’s Jordan Morant; Concordia Prep’s Deonte Ferguson; and Calvert Hall’s Peter Moore.